We know that while we designate February as Black History Month, we should be celebrating the Black community in our classrooms throughout the year. Our students and their families come to us with exciting stories — and honoring them each and every day is the best way to develop compassionate, confident students who are engaged in their learning.
Below is a list of ideas from our Savvas team for how to highlight the Black community in your culturally responsive learning every month of the year.
1 – Teach Black history all year long and incorporate it across subject areas.
First and foremost, make it a priority to spotlight and interweave Black history (and Hispanic history, Asian history, Native American History, Indian history…the list goes on) into your instruction all year long. Recognizing that our students are members of a global community means providing them with the opportunity to celebrate and appreciate the amazing and diverse communities that make up the United States. Today, more than ever, let’s help our students — our future — understand the current and historical perspectives and contributions of the Black community and how they impact our daily lives.
“Black history is American history. Include the stories and facts of all Americans in your discussion of history as we share the growth and development of our nation from Roanoke to Biden’s inauguration. Black history begins with your first discussion in September and lasts through June.” — Joseph, Savvas employee and former teacher
“There are examples of Black people across all curricula, so incorporate them in each subject. For example, students can study the mathematical patterns of African art. Social studies can incorporate primary and secondary source documents by or about Black people.” — Michelle, Savvas employee and former teacher
2 – Encourage your students to research and discover those individuals (past and present) who are meaningful to them.
A student who loves space might like to research Guion Bluford, Jr., the first African American in Space. A student who loves to cook might like to research Mariya Russel, the first Black woman to run a Michelin-starred kitchen. A student interested in medicine might want to learn more about Jocelyn Elders, the first African American U.S. Surgeon General. Whatever the topic, allowing students to research pioneers in the areas of interest to them will increase their engagement and connection while also allowing them to learn more about the subject matter.
“Teachers can highlight Black history and culture all year long by giving opportunities to the class to learn about it through diverse novels, diverse experiences, and even looking at real-world events and considering them from more than a majority perspective.” — Sarah-Gayle, Savvas employee
3 – Regularly celebrate individuals in your community who have made a difference.
Maybe there is a community member who fought to provide resources for the school or someone who is committed to decreasing waste. Connecting students to the heroes in their own communities not only adds meaning, but it might also spark some community service in your classroom!
“Look to your community for individuals who are willing to speak to your class about their past experiences or what they’re doing now to improve the world…There is a certain level of humanity, credibility, and authenticity that a real person has and that a book or worksheet simply can’t replicate.” — Geoff, curriculum specialist and former teacher
“Highlight unsung heroes. The individuals who contribute to Black history through their accomplishments in the immediate community.” — Stephanie, curriculum specialist supervisor
4 – Connect history and culture to students in our classrooms today.
Martin Luther King, Jr. Rosa Parks. John Lewis. These names matter in our lives–for the work that these and other heroes did and for the movements they inspired. Help students connect to history by recognizing what it means to them personally. Helping students relate the work of our heroes to the impact in their lives at that moment is key.
“It is important that we all seek out stories that center Black perspectives. The Black experience should not be taught solely using moments when people overcame oppression. Educators can engage rich primary sources that provide evidence of Black innovation, joy, and pride as well as connect contemporary movements for liberation to the work of earlier generations.” — Meg, curriculum specialist and former educator
“Teachers can continue to highlight Black history and culture all year long by helping students make connections, within all content areas, to facts learned during Black History Month. Students should have space to share, make connections to their own personal experiences, and discuss their understanding of content. Black history (can) be…a celebration rooted in joy.” — Nancy, Savvas employee and former educator
5 – Keep the subject matter content interesting and fresh.
Expand the subject matter beyond that of only slavery and the civil rights movement, or even history in general. Talk about current events and pop culture, bring up lesser-known facts, and tie in role models into every subject area and lesson plan.
“Continue to be interesting. We’ve learned about MLK Jr., Rosa Parks, etc. Highlight new faces, significant moments in history, little-known facts about inventions, cultural shifts, and more. Talk about what’s important to students: music, culture, etc. Illuminate more recent groundbreaking historical moments in those areas and share how they too can make history. It’s important for students to see themselves in the people we celebrate.” — Tanjuer, Savvas employee and former teacher
6 – Let your students be the experts.
Administer student interest surveys at the beginning of the year, and periodically throughout the year. Allow students to research topics that interest them, but also share with and teach the class about various topics. Recognizing each student as “experts” and “geniuses” is valuable as you celebrate diversity each and every day of the year.
“Create a bulletin board where you and the students can add pictures and facts about African-American contributions to each different content area (discipline) of the classroom.” — Casey, Savvas curriculum specialist
“Each month, provide an opportunity for a small group to prepare and present a collaborative project. The project can be on an individual or cultural contribution of their choice.” — Lakisha, Savvas employee and former teacher
7 – Foster community in your classroom every day.
Create a safe space for all students to share their lives, experiences, and perspectives with each other. This helps foster community with your students and helps them understand each other’s differences and the beauty in their differences, and helps all students feel like they belong.
“When I was a teacher of younger elementary students, we started each day with a community circle to foster student voice and classroom community. The questions were as simple as “what is one thing you did this weekend” or a deeper question such as “who inspires you?” The community circle fosters a culture of safety and kinship, and is a great way to encourage students to share their stories.” — Jamie, Savvas employee & former teacher